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French Version

Jordan's king presses Olmert to resume negotiations with Palestinians

Haniyya accuses US of trying to topple his government

Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert held talks in Amman with King Abdullah II on Tuesday on how to revive stalled peace talks as fierce fighting erupted in Gaza City, killing six people. In Gaza, Palestinian Premier Ismail Haniyya accused the United States of trying to topple his government and urged all Palestinians to show restraint.

"Agreement was reached on continuing coordination with the Palestinian Authority to discuss all the avenues that will allow reactivating the peace process," a royal palace source in Amman said of Abdullah's talks with Olmert.

The king asked Olmert to visit to help prod the Palestinians and Israelis to break the stalemate, the source said.

"The Israelis must enter into talks with the Palestinians to find the right common ground to relaunch the peace process," a palace statement quoted the king as telling Olmert.

"The policy of imposing unilateral solutions and creating facts on the ground has proved its failure," the monarch said, referring to Israel's expropriation of West Bank land that Arabs fear will leave the Jewish state with substantial parts of the territory it seized in the 1967 war.

Palace officials said the king and Olmert discussed a recent Arab peace push.

"Israel should seriously and positively study the Arab peace Initiative, which is a suitable basis to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict on all levels," he was quoted as saying.

Diplomatic efforts to contain the crisis were gathering momentum on Tuesday. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the violence had to stop.

"We hope that there will in fact be a cease-fire between the parties. That is very important," she said in an interview with Al-Arabiyya television.

Abdullah told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call he was ready to host a meeting between Haniyya and the Palestinian president to try to defuse Palestinian clashes that raised the specter of civil war, palace officials said.

Meanwhile, rival Palestinian leaders issued urgent calls for a halt to raging street battles between their respective supporters in Gaza.

"As president of the Palestinian people, I call on everyone without exception to cease the fire and the murders ... in order to save our unity," Abbas said in a statement.

"The agreement signed [Sunday] between the Palestinian factions should be applied on the ground, and Palestinian security forces should deploy in the streets in order to bring a halt to the actions of the combatants," Abbas said.

Haniyya, in a later televised address, urged that no more blood be spilled.

"This people will remain united in the face of occupation and aggression and will not be derailed by internal struggles," Haniyya said.

The premier also repeated his opposition to Abbas' plan for early elections.

"I want to clarify that we consider the issue of the early elections for the presidency and Parliament unconstitutional," he said, blaming Abbas for the violence and political stalemate.

As a first step toward ending the violence, he urged his interior minister to convene a meeting of rival security chiefs to discuss ways to calm the situation.

Haniyya accused the United States of spearheading efforts to bring down his government.

"There is an undeclared decision to bring down the government ... and the Americans are leading this effort," he said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack dismissed Haniyya's accusation, saying that the Hamas leader was trying to distract attention from his and his government's failure to deliver on promises to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.

In the latest incidents, a Fatah loyalist was killed Tuesday after being kidnapped by gunmen and another died of wounds from clashes earlier in the day, medics said. A Hamas loyalist, too, succumbed to wounds received in clashes during the day.

Earlier two Fatah loyalists and a Hamas policeman were killed in gun battles in Gaza City. At least 19 people, including seven teenagers, were wounded.

The fighting later spread to one of the main offices of the intelligence service, which was attacked by mortars and grenades, security officials said.

The Palestinian Interior Ministry said Egyptian security officials had brokered a deal for members of rival security services to leave the streets and return to their headquarters.

The agreement required various factions to also free hostages they were holding, ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said.

The Daily Star

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